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Broncos roster 2017: Shaquil Barrett

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Look for Barrett to have his best season yet in the NFL and play a key role for Denver’s defense.

NFL: Denver Broncos-OTA Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquil Barrett had high expectations for the 2016 season.

Name: Shaquil Barrett
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6'2" Weight: 250
Age: 24 Experience: 4
College: Colorado State

After a breakout campaign in 2015 for the Denver Broncos it was easy to see why. He would get another offseason to learn from and work with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Barrett could take what he did in 2015, and what he didn’t, and advance another step in becoming another dominant edge defender.

For whatever reason, that just didn’t happen. The explosive plays were rare, and with it the impact Barrett had for the defense. You can see that in the stats for last season when he had just 36 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Barrett had 50 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2015. For his career, Barrett has 86 tackles and seven sacks in 32 games.

The expectation and hope is Barrett will use last season as motivation to prove 2016 was an outlier.

The Good

At 24 years old, Barrett hasn’t even reached his prime. That’s a great thing for Denver and this defense. In his two seasons of action, he knows what it takes to be a dominant player in this league. The key now is to make that happen.

What helps Barrett is the fact the Broncos are so deep at the position. That allows all of the guys to remain fresh and get on the field when it best suits their abilities. As it stands, Barrett is considered one of the most underrated players on the team and figures to continue flying under the radar for another season. Part of that is the depth, but also how he played last season.

If Barrett wants to see more playing time, if he wants to become a starter, he has to be better than Shane Ray. As we all know by now, Denver loves competition, and these two young guys will make the other better, and with it the defense.

Barrett shines in areas where Ray falls short, such as setting the edge and defending the run. If Barrett can become a consistent pass rusher like he was in 2015, he’ll get more time on the field.

The Bad

How does Barrett respond to a season where he may not have lived up to expectations? His or the team’s? The answer to that question will let his teammates and coaches know where he is mentally.

Barrett would also be a starter on almost every other team in the NFL, and that is great motivation for a young player who is still trying to prove his worth. Also keep in mind John Elway and the Broncos will have to make a decision on his contract soon. This is his fourth season after a rookie season on the practice squad. If Barrett wants to get an extension and/or get paid, he needs to have a strong season in 2017. In early April, Barrett signed his one-year tender, so a decision looms.

Quotable

Defensive coordinator Joe Woods on what role he expects Barrett to play in the defense this season:

“With our outside linebackers and defensive ends, we’ve always been a rotational defense. Shaq has the ability to play both the strong and the weak side, along with Shane Ray. We want to make sure we’re bringing waves of rushers at people. We’re going to make sure everyone is involved whether it’s run or pass game. We know that Shane and Shaq, they’re all capable of producing and making plays when they’re on the field.”

Status

Barrett is a lock to make the roster. The only question is how much playing time he will receive. It looks as though the Broncos will have Ray replace the retired Ware. Still, if Barrett shines in organized team activities and training camp, he’ll make the decision for Woods and Vance Joseph difficult, and that’s a good thing.

Look for Barrett to have his best season yet in the NFL. I think last season eats at him. It wasn’t a bad season, but he knows he’s better than that and he’ll prove it. I think he and Ray will be neck-and-neck this season in terms of sacks. Coupled with Miller, the Smash Brothers will wreak havoc in 2017.